Cranes are an endangered bird species on the brink of extinction and have taken a step back with the help of captive breeding programs. The Great Crane Project, for example, has its goals set on restoring a healthy population of cranes throughout the UK.
Developed in 2010, the Great Crane Project began carefully hand-rearing young birds in captivity. For the first time in over 400 years, the first crane egg was laid by a nesting bird in southern Britain. Located at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the first egg released by the Great Crane Project is under 24-hour watch.
"Cranes are an iconic part of British wildlife and one that was all but lost for centuries. There is a long way to go before cranes become widespread again, but it is absolutely momentous to see this egg laid at Slimbridge," head of conservation breeding, Nigel Jarrett said.
Throughout the years, threats to the population of cranes in Britain have included hunting and the loss of wetlands. The Great Crane Project aims to release 20 birds every year into their rightful habitat and by 2015 expects to release 100 birds.
The surveillance cameras that monitor the wetlands also protect the nest against theft from egg collectors. Since 1954, egg collecting is considered illegal in the UK, but some people still collect and raid nests to add to their collection.
As reported on the WWT's website, the nesting pair of birds can be seen from hides at the WWT in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. A website video link was set up to give visitors a close-up view of the nesting cranes. The site is visible to the public and also gives birdwatchers and scientists a rare opportunity to study the nesting cranes' behavior. To check out the webcam, click here.